Thompson Okanagan recognized as first sustainable tourism destination in the Americas
'This puts us in an elite group of regions around the world,' says regional tourism official
B.C.'s Thompson Okanagan region has been recognized as the first sustainable tourism destination in the Americas.
Sustainable tourism is measured by examining how a destination manages itself from several perspectives, including environmental, social and cultural perspectives. It also looks at the region's goals to maintain its standards.
The Responsible Tourism Institute, which gave the region the designation, is an organization based in Spain linked to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). It encourages tourism that "contributes to a destination's cultural and natural heritage."
Responsible Tourism Institute officials were in Kamloops, B.C. on Wednesday afternoon to announce the Thompson-Okanagan would be the first place in North or South America to receive this distinction.
"We are very proud," said Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association president Glenn Mandziuk.
Mandziuk said the tourism association was required to complete a comprehensive review, including 137 questions, in order to receive the designation.
Twenty regions around the world have received the recognition from the Responsible Tourism Institute, most of which are located in Europe. Three other locations are vying for the recognition.
"We are pleased to be certifying [the Thompson Okanagan] with this rare and prestigious designation," said Patricio Azcarate Diaz de Losada, director of the Responsible Tourism Institute in a press release.
"Tourism is a global connector, contributing to reducing inequality within and between countries, promoting peaceful and inclusive societies, supporting environmental sustainability and creating opportunities for learning and prosperity for all."
More than three million people visit the Thompson Okanagan each year, according to the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association.
Madziuk believes the recognition will bring more tourists to the area.
"This puts us in an elite group of regions around the world that live up to this high standard," he said.